Virunga Primates & Mafia Island
Track mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in Rwanda followed by great scuba diving and snorkelling on Mafia Island.
Mafia Island is a world-class diving destination, home to some of the richest coral reefs on earth.
Set apart from the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, Mafia Island is governed by mainland Tanzania. The pristine ocean waters around Mafia are protected by the Tanzanian government, and are filled with an abundance of dazzling marine life.
Mafia Island and its smaller islets (Jibondo, Juani, Chole and Bwejuu) are globally recognised as a critical site for marine biodiversity. The Mafia Island Marine Park covers a massive 822 square kilometres and claims the title of the biggest marine protected area in the Indian Ocean.
The concave sheltered waters of Chole Bay are open to diving all year, however the diving sites outside the bay are only open to seasoned divers between October and February.
A diving or snorkelling adventure will give you the opportunity to discover 40 kinds of beautiful coral and over 400 species of colourful fish.
You'll have the chance to find Nemo as clownfish are common here, and you're also likely to spot octopus, groupers and cod fish.
Nearby you'll find The Pinnacle, an impressive rock formation, home to moray eels, lobsters and occasionally manta rays.
The further you venture into the deep, the more chance you have of crossing paths with playful dolphins, sharks (including the majestic whale shark) and turtles, which come to nest on the more remote beaches of Mafia Island.
The Mafia region is also renowned for deep-sea fishing, as large populations of tuna, sailfish, marlin and other big game fish can be found in Mafia’s waters. The best times for a fishing trip are between September and March.
The protection of the marine park extends to the land and its natural forest, estuarine and mangrove ecosystems. The island is strewn with exotic flora including coconut palms, baobabs, and cashew, papaya and mango trees.
Mafia Island is home to 17,000 inhabitants across ten villages, who rely on the marine life for income. Therefore, the park is classified as a multi-use area, so that local communities are encouraged to adopt sustainable practices, resources and conservation.
A trip to Mafia Island provides world class dive spots, a beautiful insight into diverse marine ecosystems and the humbling opportunity to witness an abundance of marine wildlife thriving in their natural environment.
Mafia Island has pleasant temperatures all year round, however the rainy season can affect water activities such as diving and fishing, so it’s best to keep this in mind when planning your trip. The long rains arrive between March and May, including strong winds from the northeast. October to February is best for experienced divers looking for the best dive opportunities, as there is fantastic water visibility and it's also the period when the deeper waters are open for exploration outside of the Chole Bay area. The best season for deep sea fishing experiences is between September and March.
Mafia Island is a tranquil, secluded destination situated off the coast of Tanzania. It's a true off the beaten path destination, rewarding visitors with fewer crowds, spectacular diving, incredible wildlife encounters, and pristine marine parks renowned for their flourishing marine life and coral reefs.
You can experience this unique destination on our Rwanda Virunga Primates & Mafia Island luxury itinerary. If you would like to spend more time exploring Mafia Island or would like to add Mafia Island to your luxury Zanzibar holiday, our friendly Africa Team will be happy to arrange this for you.
Butiama Beach Lodge is a rustic beach hotel with just 13 bungalows, ensuring that your stay here is personal and peaceful. With views over the Indian Ocean, the breathtaking humpback whale migration can be observed from the property during September and August. Pole Pole Lodge is an unpretentious, laidback eco-resort situated right on the beach, nestled amongst tropical coconut palms.
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